Those acquainted with the humble beginnings and unquestionable talent of Malaysian-born chef Cheong Liew, were not surprised when the 72-year-old culinary icon took on the challenge of ‘Going all Greek’.
He will cook a series of Greek degustation lunches as part of celebrations to commemorate the 200-year anniversary of the commencement of the Greek War of Independence, organised by the Foundation for Hellenic Studies.
“I haven’t cooked Greek food since 1972, when I landed my first job at the Greek restaurant The Iliad, one of the most popular venues in Adelaide during the ’70s. To be invited today, nearly half a century later to cook Greek food is an exciting challenge for me,” Mr Liew said.
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Liew studied to be an engineer before deciding to become a chef, restaurateur and cookery teacher.
He started his career at The Iliad as a grill cook after his brother Khai suggested he join what was then considered as one of the ‘hottest’ dining options in Adelaide.
The award-winning culinary artist, who has been named the greatest chef of his generation in Australia, admits that he knew nothing about Greece when he started working at The Iliad. Though he knew about Alexander the Great, he was in no way familiar with Greek cuisine. Nevertheless, he was delighted to be given the opportunity to work at the iconic Greek restaurant which catered to hundreds of South Australians every night.
“I remember I went out and bought a copy of Greek Cuisine cookbook to familiarise myself with the recipes and the pronunciation of some of the dishes as well as learn what actually goes into the dish. Slowly I learnt how to grill everything, from steak, to lobster and souvlaki and the importance of marinating and seasoning food with lemon, oregano, parsley, olive oil, lots of garlic, black pepper, cinnamon sticks and slices of lemon. I was later encouraged by the head chef to take cooking up as a career, pointing out I have a natural sense in cooking and managing a kitchen,” Mr Liew said, admitting that his Greek cooking experience has certainly influenced his Australian multicultural style of cooking.
Mr Liew received his first critical acclaim for his Adelaide based restaurant Neddy’s.
However, he is best known for his prestigious restaurant The Grange, which opened in the Adelaide Hilton Hotel in 1995 and closed in 2009.
He has a reputation for creative cuisine and was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (1999) for “service to the food and restaurant industry through his involvement in developing and influencing the style of contemporary Australian cuisine”.
He has been described as “one of the indisputable fathers of Australian cooking” by Stephen Downes and in 2017 was honoured as “one of the ten hottest chefs alive” by the American publication Food & Wine Magazine.
He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame in the World Food Media Awards.
Organised by The Foundation for Hellenic Studies, the all-inclusive ‘Long Greek lunches’ were held in February and March at ‘Georges on Waymouth’ restaurant, owned by Greek- Australian restaurateur George Kasimatis, who worked with the Malaysian chef at the start of his career in the food and wine industry.
“I have always admired Cheong for his warmth, talent, hospitality and mastery at bringing cultures and flavours together and it has been my honor to host him at my restaurant and cook Greek food with him,” Mr Kasimatos told Neos Kosmos.
The Greek long lunch event is one of the several to be held in 2021 to highlight the significance of the 200-anniversary.
“Food brings people together and we are honoured to have one of the founding fathers of contemporary Australian cuisine, whose passion for cooking was established in a Greek kitchen, present a modern twist to Greek cuisine,” said Harry Patsouris, Trustee for the Foundation for Hellenic Studies.
The Foundation for Hellenic Studies promotes Hellenic language and culture.
In October 2020, the not-for-profit entity launched Gr2021 to commemorate the Anniversary of the commencement of the Greek War of Independence through a series of events to be held throughout 2021.
For more information on the events and bicentenary celebrations visit the Foundation for Hellenic Studies or contact email@example.com.